Tag Archives: Scientific Translator

What to Look for in a Scientific Translator

When it comes to scientific translation, there are different factors that you should consider when selecting a translator. Scientific translation requires a very different set of skills from those required for other types of translation.
There’s one piece of good news that will make it easier to find a scientific translator: In general, a translator working on scientific literature will generally be able to operate well in both directions. In other words, if the translator is good at translating Spanish scientific texts into English, then he or she will probably be skilled at translating similar texts from English to Spanish. This is because scientific texts typically rely upon the precision of language. Normally, there are only a certain number of ways that a particular concept can be translated. Once the concept is understood, there are only a limited number of ways to express that concept. Stylistic concerns, while still present, are considerably less important than they are in other forms of writing. Therefore, if a translator has the ability to read a certain text in a given language, then he or she is probably competent to write the same text in the same language.
Therefore, in scientific translation, the key consideration is whether the translator is competent to read the text in both languages. This means, of course, that he must have a fairly solid understanding of the underlying concepts. Simply being able to read a sentence and render its equivalent is not sufficient. The translator needs to be fully conversant in the material being presented. A good test of a translator’s ability is whether he or she can read a passage, and then intelligently answer questions about that passage. In fact, that’s exactly what the translator is going to do: He or she is going to read the passage in one language, and then answer those questions in another language. In order to deliver a good scientific translation, it is imperative that the translator understand those questions.
This same skill is not necessarily required in other fields of translation. To translate a novel, the translator does not need to understand why the characters are saying the things they say. He or she simply needs to render that text as a character would have delivered them in another language. But in the case of scientific translation, it’s imperative that the translator know the uderlying questions that are being answered.
The bare minimum is a knowledge of the terminology being used in a particular discipline. This means that a good translator needs to be up to date on his or her reading in the field in which he is translating, in both languages. Especially in cutting-edge fields, there may not be a bilingual dictionary showing all of the relevant terminology. The translator needs to know this information.
Also, the scientific translator needs a firm background in the general field being translated. Many scientific disciplines are interrelated, so it is not necessary for the translator to be a specialist in the field being translated. But to render good scientific translations, he or she at least needs to have a basic understanding of that discipline.